April is National Poetry Month, a fact that quite a few folks are likely to greet with a sigh or a shrug. Poetry isn’t widely read these days, perhaps because many readers find it rarefied, obscure and tediously abstract. Much of the modern stuff often is.
But for those who want to connect with poetry’s best traditions, Catharine Savage Brosman is a great place to start. Her poems by Ella are beautifully descriptive and often shaped by engaging stories. They can be happy or sad, hopeful or wistful, just like life. Many of Brosman’s poems by her draw inspiration from her days of her living and working in Louisiana. Given that connection, readers wo n’t be surprised that her work by Ella can also be touched by a wry sense of comedy.
All of this came to mind when a copy of “Arm in Arm,” Brosman’s new collection of poems, crossed my desk. Brosman, a longtime professor of French at Tulane, retired from the university in 1997. Ella’s Family connections prompted a move to Houston, though Brosman has continued to keep in touch with her New Orleans friends. She recently bought a condo on St. Charles Avenue so that she can stay in the city more often.
Brosman is 87 now, and his poems are often better than ever. In the title poem of her new book, she recalls strolling with her husband, Patric, as a young couple in Paris, and then, much later in life, walking in London, “both slightly lame,” yet celebrating “older love, the sort that won’t give up.” It’s a lovely evocation of how relationships evolve, concluding poignantly as Brosman contemplates touching Patric’s extended arm again. He died in 2017.
Brosman’s poems suggest that though aging involves loss, it can also bring the wisdom to navigate what fate dispenses. One poem, “In The Great Louisiana Freeze,” offers a survival manual of sorts for dealing with winter weather emergencies in this part of the world. Her key takeaways: Once the pipes are wrapped, have a good dinner and a glass of wine. “There’s little you can’t handle with your experience,” she tells readers. “Serve out your zeal.”
It occurred to me, while reading Brosman’s new collection, that more of us might try poetry if we met poets in person, something that hasn’t usually been possible during the COVID-19 restrictions of the past two years.
But with the pandemic easing, Brosman is out again, greeting her readers. She’ll be signing copies of “Arm in Arm” on April 30 from 4 to 5:30 pm at The Conundrum bookshop in St. Francisville, then reading her poems as part of Baton Rouge Gallery’s “Sundays at 4” series on May 1 She’s making another appearance at Baton Rouge’s Main Library on May 2 at 7:30 pm
After the ordeals of social distancing, the chance to hear poetry read aloud again in public is a gift worth savoring. So, for that matter, it is “Arm in Arm.”
Email Danny Heitman at firstname.lastname@example.org.